The rise of political tensions in Senegal, primarily due to the trial between opposition leader Ousmane Sonko and Ms. Adji Sarr and his defamation trial from the Minister of Tourism Mame Mbaye Niang, has prompted widespread fears among Senegalese citizens. As a result, many observers worry that the country will plunge into intense political violence between supporters and opponents of power.
To foster dialogue and promote consensus among Senegalese political actors, NDI was able to leverage its status as a neutral facilitator and its convening power to conduct political mediation alongside its key partners, including The Coalition of Civil Society Organizations for Elections (COSCE) and AfrikaJom Center, a think tank working toward global equity, to reduce tensions between the opposing parties. Encouraging collaboration eases some of the strain felt by both parties in order to make room for meaningful and beneficial conversation. As a result, this mediation group adopted the title of “Forces Vives.” The creation of this program has enabled NDI to convey dialogues with political, social and religious actors in Senegal.
The importance of this issue resonates with community leaders. Imam Oumar Diene, President of the National Associations of Imams and Ulama in Senegal responded, “Our country is going through a difficult time, shaken by a wind of uncontrolled phenomena, aggressive words, threatening its stability. Let us favor good citizenship and dialogue, while respecting the laws that govern our institutions.”
On March 1, 2023, NDI joined Senegalese civil society organizations, including the League of Imams and Ulama of Senegal, to call on religious actors to intervene and speak to citizens to encourage dialogue and prevent electoral violence. Days after the discussion, the League of the Imams and Ulama of Senegal launched a press release to urge all political actors to maintain stability and peace. The League of Imams of various mosques across the country has also worked together to launch awareness messages to young people after each prayer. Furthermore, the League has appointed one of its representatives to be a “Forces Vives” mediation committee member.
With the support from NDI through Forces Vives, the League of Imams and Ulama in Senegal demonstrate to citizens and all political and civil society actors its availability to support any desire for open dialogue and the search for resolutions for the benefit of all citizens. This creates a productive ground for discussion and growth, allowing multiple parties to voice their concerns, needs, interests and aspirations going forward. To meet this eagerness with open arms establishes a willingness to collaborate for a better future for all participants
Author: Awa Mbaye, Communications Officer and Program Assistant, NDI: Senegal
NDI’s engagement with this program is supported by a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.